Oceanside murder case leads to case of mistaken identity

Gene Rossi mistaken for Frederick Hengl

OCEANSIDE, Calif. - An Oceanside man said his life has turned into a nightmare after a case of mistaken identity.

For years, Gene Rossi has dressed as a woman. Now, for the first time, he's living in fear.

"I've been staying close to home," said Rossi.

Rossi's home is three blocks from the Oceanside home that's attracted so much attention. There, two weeks ago, Frederick Hengl was arrested, accused of dismembering his wife and cooking her body parts.           

In news reports, neighbors told various media outlets that Hengl liked to walk around in women's clothing. One TV station -- not 10News -- used a cellphone photo and identified the man as Hengl.

However, the man those neighbors were describing -- the man in the photo -- was not Hengl, but Rossi, who watched in horror as his life was turned upside down.

"I was just shocked," said Rossi "A lot of people and some people that I even know still believe it was me."

While he hasn't received any verbal threats, Rossi admitted he's become paranoid and doesn't like to leave the house. When he does, he said neighbors "follow me around for awhile, some of them."

Rossi said he did contact the TV station and got the photo removed, but he still doesn't understand how the mistake was made.

"I just feel like it's a violation," said Rossi.

"Do you see a resemblance?" asked 10News reporter Michael Chen.

"No way," said Rossi, laughing.

Humor is one way Rossi gets through his days -- that and the hope that his association with an accused killer will soon fade away.

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